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Planning the SNOWCHASE

Are We There Yet?

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The best way to start your sweet sweet ski vacation is by getting to the slopes in style and comfort. This mainly depends on three things: picking the right flights, picking the right seats, and picking the right ground transportation to and from the airport.

Flights first, since they involve both the most time and the most money. While I’m assuming you have booked flights online before, here are a few tips and tricks for getting a better deal:

  • Time your trip. If you are flexible regarding when you travel, check out the nifty “Price Graph” feature in Google Flights (part of the “times” menu, see below).
  • Time your ticketing. Depending on your destination and the time of year, there is a specific window (sometimes one month out from your travel date, sometimes ten) when ticket prices are lower. Check out these pages for general info, and download the Hopper app to get price forecasts for your specific itinerary.
  • On the other hand, don’t miss the boat, or in this case the plane. Keep an eye on how quickly seats are filling up on your desired flights. For many airlines, if you use the “book flights” feature on their website, they let you look at the available seats on a given flight prior to buying a ticket.

Now for the “comfort” part. Of course you want the best seats for your money, and for that Seatguru is your friend. It shows you which seats are great, and maybe more importantly, which ones suck. Just enter your airline, flight number and date. But watch out: sometimes airlines have multiple possible cabin layouts for the same plane, so it pays to make sure that the seat map shown by your airline (via the “manage your reservation” feature on their website) matches the one shown by seatguru.

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Another driver for a stress-free travel experience: allowing just the right time for plane changes. Unless you are lucky enough to fly out of a major hub like ATL, IAD, ORD, DFW or LAX, chances are you have to change planes somewhere. Most airlines let you book a connecting flight departing 35 to 45 minutes after your first flight is scheduled to arrive, but that can easily lead to a missed connection if your first flight is even a little bit late. At which point you are at the mercy of the airline to get you where you need to go. So leave at least an hour between flights, better two – and enjoy a good beer or four at the airport bar!

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Hydrate or die.

But it’s not over until the fat lady sings, which means until you put your Götterdämmerung CD in the stereo system of your lodge’s den, while kicking back with a glass of whisky and looking up at the mountain that you will conquer first thing tomorrow morning. So, in other words, don’t forget about getting from the airport to said lodge. Like with picking the best place to go, the best way to get there depends on your group size among other things.

Find the Sweet Spot.

If it’s just you and maybe your significant other or ski bum buddy, using a shuttle service that charges by person might make sense. On the other hand, for groups of three or four, a rental car may be cheaper and will also give you more mobility at the resort – from facilitating grocery shopping and going out, to enabling you to check out that other resort a few valleys over. Five or six people will need a large SUV or (if road conditions allow) a minivan. More than that, either two cars or a big van. Like with booking a condo, finding the sweet spot means running the numbers for a bunch of alternatives.

So now you have picked your place, picked your time, and figured out how to get there. Tune in next week for part three: what to bring!

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Out of the fog, out of the woods.

Photos by Pockets.

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